Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ignited a minor furor this week when he said on national TV that the Senate could force National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg to reveal who leaked documents alleging sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas.
But he now says he never expected that any such thing would or should happen and merely was responding to questions about legal possibilities "as if it were a law school quiz.""I was being interviewed on the (PBS) MacNeil/
Lehrer Newshour, and they asked me whether I thought the Senate could force reporters to reveal their sources," Hatch said.
"I was under the impression that NPR is heavily funded by the government. So I felt that NPR was a quasi-governmental agency and therefore the Senate could force her to reveal her sources," and he quoted Supreme Court cases that might apply, he told the Deseret News.
Such comments also appeared in such newspapers as the Washington Times.
They upset NPR, which pointed out it receives only 2 percent of its funding from federal grants. Hatch, however, said many public radio stations carrying NPR receive an average of 16 percent of their funds from federal grants.
While he still insists his legal theory is correct, he adds, "I doubt that the Senate would ever force her to reveal her sources. If it did, NPR would have to appeal to the Supreme Court . . . and I think it would say it is up to Congress to address how it handles such issues."
Hatch added, "I don't expect any reporter to ever reveal their sources, though. To do their job, they need sources. And they won't have any sources if word gets around that they will reveal their sources."
Still, he said he would like To-tenberg to reveal her sources "because I would like to know who leaked (Judiciary) documents to her."